Healthcare-Associated Infection (HAI)
St Stephen's Hospital is committed to minimising the risk of healthcare-associated infections. Healthcare associated infections are infections that occur as a result of healthcare interventions and are caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses. They can happen when you are being treated in a hospital, in a GP clinic, at home, in a nursing home, or other healthcare facility.
Staphylococcus Aureus Bacteraemia (SAB)
Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium found in the respiratory tract and on the skin. While this organism can live on a healthy person’s body without causing any adverse effects, it can cause an infection if it enters the blood stream. Patients who develop a blood stream infection (bacteraemia) are more likely to suffer complications that can result in a longer stay in hospital and increase the cost of their hospital stay.
Healthcare-associated SAB is an important measure of the safety of a hospital and the aim is to have as few occurrences as possible. Performing hand hygiene is recognised as one of the most effective ways to minimise the incidence of SAB.
Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that is normally found in the bowel (gut). Its presence alone does not cause disease or infection and it can be found in healthy people. It can also survive for a long time outside of the body. When the normal balance of bacteria in the gut is disturbed, Clostridium difficile can multiply to levels where it produces toxins that can cause illnesses such as diarrhoea and severe inflammation of the bowel.
The risk of Clostridium difficile is increased when people are on antibiotics, are elderly, in hospital for a long time, or very sick. It can be spread from person to person via the hands of anyone – including healthcare workers. The rate of Clostridium difficile infection is monitored closely at St Stephen's Hospital.
For more information about Clostridium difficile, refer to the National Health and Medical Research Council brochure.
What we are doing to minimise the risk of healthcare-associated infection
St Stephen's Hospital has a comprehensive infection prevention and control program which includes:
- Giving antibiotics only when necessary to minimise the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria
- Adhering to formal hospital-wide hand hygiene practices and auditing
- Strict requirements and processes for room and equipment cleaning
- Wearing gowns and masks to prevent the spread of known infections to other patients
How you can help
Hand washing is essential for controlling the spread of infection. There are numerous hand washing facilities for use by the staff, visitors and patients throughout the hospital wards and patient accommodation. In addition, alcohol hand sanitiser is readily available throughout the hospital, at the end of each bed, and outside each room.
Some simple guidelines you can follow to reduce the risk of infection include:
- Washing your hands before and after meals; after using the toilet or after touching body fluids
- Using a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
- Practicing good personal hygiene including covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands afterwards
- Asking your visitors to wash their hands or use the hand sanitiser when entering and leaving your room
- Discouraging your visitors from sitting on your bed
If you are a visitor to St Stephen's Hospital
- Do not visit the hospital if you are unwell, have a cold, are vomiting, or have diarrhoea;
- Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser before visiting and before going home from the hospital;
- Avoid bringing too many visitors at any one time to visit someone;
- Be careful not to touch dressings, drips or other equipment around the patient;
- Do not sit on the patient’s bed.
To find out more about preventing hospital acquired infection, visit the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare.